Maritime spatial plan and marine strategy to ensure a good marine environment in Denmark

The maritime spatial plan has been submitted for public consultation until 30 September 2021. Together with objectives and initiatives laid down in the Danish Marine Strategy, the maritime spatial plan must, among other things, contribute to Denmark being able to harvest green energy from offshore wind power while caring for the maritime environment, as stated in the Danish Maritime Authority?s maritime spatial plan report from March 2021.

The maritime spatial plan identifies specific areas for development of renewable energy, nature and environmental conservation areas, raw materials extraction, maritime transport, CO2 storage, etc. 
The maritime spatial plan is the first holistic planning for the total Danish maritime area, and it is presented and debated at seven regional meetings across Denmark in June 2021.

Energy islands are important elements in the maritime spatial plan
The proposal for the maritime spatial plan is to implement an EU directive on the framework for maritime spatial planning in Danish legislation, and the energy islands are important elements: 
The maritime spatial plan states: “With the maritime spatial plan, a significant part of the marine area will be designed for renewable energy to make room for the establishment of the new offshore wind farms and the world’s first energy islands”. The plan also states that Denmark in this way will support the European Commission’s strategy for offshore renewable energy.   

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Nature conservation areas increase to cover 30% of Denmark’s maritime area 
In parallel with the consultation of the maritime spatial plan, the Danish government has submitted 13 new protected marine areas for consultation as well as identified new bird conservation areas as a result of obligations under the Directive.

“With the designation of the new nature conservation areas, the share of Danish marine conservation areas is increasing from approx. 19% to approx. 30% of Denmark’s marine area”, and it must help to achieve good environmental status in the Danish marine areas (maritime spatial plan report). 

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Environmental conditions in Danish maritime areas 
Denmark’s maritime strategy II from 2018 to 2024 is a monitoring programme and several initiatives aimed at improving the environmental status in Danish maritime areas. The Marine Strategy is based on the 2008 EU Marine Strategy Directive, which is based on an ecosystem-based approach. “It means that the total marine utilisation must be compatible with a good environmental condition. In other words, there is a balance between the conservation and the use of the sea”, as stated in the Marine Strategy.  

Not all areas of the marine environment are sufficiently well studied for the environmental condition to be assessed accurately. However, in the marine strategy, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency assesses on the basis of the available data that a good environmental status has not been achieved for the Danish marine areas. 

Good environmental status is measured with indicators within a total of 11 EU-defined subjects or so-called descriptors, including biodiversity, non-indigenous species, sea floor integrity, pollutants, underwater noise etc. 

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To coexist or not to coexist?

At the moment, there is a significant public debate on the consideration of energy production and considerations of nature, the environment and biodiversity. Can green transition and the environment coexist or not?

So far, a new and important bird conservation area in the Smålandhavet (The small-land waterway) and Lolland-Falster has put a halt to the coastal offshore wind farm Omø Syd which has been in the pipeline for the past ten years.

The fossil era is at coming to an end. It is now being discussed whether oil platforms, rather than being removed from the North Sea, should remain in part of the sea as artificial reefs. This is due to the animal life on the sea floor where natural stone reefs etc. have disappeared over the years, especially as a result of trawling. 

The construction of offshore wind turbines or onshore solar cells impact the environment, but can also improve the local biodiversity on site. Offshore wind turbines in the form of artificial reef formation on the sea floor and solar cell farms through various types of nature conservation planting of the areas where the solar cells are installed. 

NGOs within nature and the environment and developers of production facilities for renewable energy focus on aligning green energy considerations with biodiversity considerations. For example, the Danish Energy Association and Wind Denmark have just launched a new laboratory which, through research and testing of new solutions, will ensure coexistence between nature and photovoltaic cells or wind farms.